Skip to main content

Getting LinkedIn…

Click this logo to make contact with me!

Many people still don’t harness the power of social media platforms like LinkedIn, says Mr. Loadlink.

Ever woken up with a sinking feeling as the events of the previous night (some of them, at least) come flooding back? In truth, my partying days were over a long time ago and I’m grateful that my moral compass remained pointing north most of the time anyway. Further, in my heyday we didn’t have smart phones or social media tracking our every move, giving us opportunities to post our thoughts, and our friends or foes the ability to capture our shortcomings in photos or videos and upload them where the world (and our parents!) could see. Smart phones must bring a whole new dynamic to the heady years of young adulthood.

It’s certainly a changing world, one where we have to deal with trolls (a confrontational or quarrelsome internet user) and catfish (a person who pretends to be someone else online for ill-gotten gain). Our data is no longer kept safe at home or reserved for paper envelopes from the bank marked ‘private’. We’ve all read about Cambridge Analytica gaining access to information on up to 87 million Facebook users, while data leaks are commonplace where a password of no more than a few letters guards what was once kept in a safety deposit box in a safe, down a long staircase, behind a secret door.

A-troll-is-a-confrontational-or-quarrelsome-internet-user-that-negatively-reacts-to-a-person’s-content-or-targets-them-with-varying-degrees-of-abuse

A troll is a confrontational or quarrelsome internet user that negatively reacts to a person’s content or targets them with varying degrees of abuse

But—and it’s a big BUT—we too readily look at the negatives of social media. Come on, did you really used to board public transport and chat to the person next to you? No. We clambered onto the carriages with the same disregard for fellow passengers as we do today and then covered our faces with a broadsheet newspaper. We would tut if someone sneezed and roll our eyes when a dog owner asked for room for their twin Great Danes.

I don’t buy into the scathing criticism youngsters get for “always being on their phones”, nor do I give credence to the suggestion that the upcoming generation are unlucky that they’ll never get a chance to play outside with sticks and pushbikes.

Brand you

There is a lot more incredibly positive behaviour and interaction on social platforms than there is bad. And professionally we have opportunities to upscale our businesses and develop our careers that we’ve never had before. The biggest game-changer, and the crux of this blog, is the rise technology has given to the personal brand. People now have greater control of their image, reputation, and destiny than ever before. There are cynics, of course, who say there’s now more scope for embellishment, but not every curriculum vitae (CV) or résumé printed on paper was 100% accurate. Again I stress that we haven’t devolved; we’re not now a lying race of con artists.

Take professional networking site LinkedIn, for example. There, people can constantly update a profile and connect with whoever they want. Someone even in the early months of employment can showcase their assets, skills, interests, and ambitions, whilst making connections with peers, competitors, and prospective future employers. There’s no need to smuggle paper business cards out of the office to make a private contacts book, or secretly submit a CV to a recruitment agent. We’re now proud owners and ambassadors of our own brand; we control who is attracted to it and we can monetise our abilities more efficiently than ever before—if we get it right.

This is a culture everyone, including employers, should embrace, not fear. I’m passionate about my staff growing their personal brands, particularly on LinkedIn; so much so that I even offered them participation in a one-day course about the platform a week or so ago that I had experienced myself earlier in the year. Our digital profile pictures, bios, posts, likes, comments, and more say so much about us and can yield such results that I felt it was important to back up use of the site with as much intelligence as possible.

I won’t plagiarise specifics but I wanted to share some of the general points garnered in the hope it, first, encourages readers to get more actively involved in LinkedIn and, second, that they do so with the greatest possible impact.

We discussed the use of emojis during the course; I have no problem with adding relevant, fun graphics to my LinkedIn posts

We discussed the use of emojis during the course; I have no problem with adding relevant, fun graphics to my LinkedIn posts

Sell later

The biggest piece of advice I can give anyone looking to use the platform to grow their brand and / or generate revenue, is to engage, collaborate, and share long before they try to push themselves and / or their product onto a contact. The most powerful salesperson in an industry is he or she that is renowned as an expert in that sector. Thought leadership status isn’t gained overnight, however, and can never be acquired without authentically demonstrating a commitment to the positive change of a marketplace.

“Here I am. Buy this,” won’t work. Once a good reputation has been earned, then there’s no harm in presenting a solution to a problem. The recipient will recognise it as a sales pitch but will likely welcome it.

It’s a slow burner, but I’ll incentivise you: LinkedIn offers users access to 500 million people. Each user has an average of 400 connections so every connection one makes opens up ‘second’ connections to the tune of the same number. The most effective way of growing connections is to engage with a target audience. The site makes it easy to locate people by industry, while a deeper drill can identify professionals with a certain job title. Researching what they’re talking about or having sleepless nights over gives a potential contact a magic formula; they can become a problem solver. A request for connection with a polite note gets the ball rolling.

LinkedIn allows users to network with like-minded individuals across the world

LinkedIn allows users to network with like-minded individuals across the world

The leaders of the course Straightpoint (SP) employees took charted the route from ‘known’ to ‘liked’ to ‘trusted’. One can’t leap from one to the other without taking time to post relevant content, interact with other people’s posts, and communicate as an individual. That last point is important because people, as we know, buy from people. LinkedIn is a place where professionals go to hang out with like-minded folks. It’s like the canteen in a workplace or the break room on a jobsite; one has to be friendly, likeable, and add value to the community to be accepted then welcomed back.

An expert once told me that just when a person thinks they’ve got their feet sufficiently under the table to start discussing a sale, that’s when they shouldn’t. “Give, give, give, give some more, then ask,” he said.

Face it

There are seven key elements to a LinkedIn profile: photograph, professional headline, summary, experience, recommendations, skills and endorsements, and contact information. I want to highlight two for further exploration: a person’s photograph and their summary. They were focal points of the aforementioned course content and I see glaring mistakes made in relation to both when I’m on the site—and I’m on there daily for varying periods of time so I feel equipped to judge.

In fact, I’m in the top 1% in both my industry and network social selling indexes (SSI). I tell you not to brag but to point out what can be achieved through a bona fide commitment to an industry and a dedicated, long-term strategy.

The simple criterion for a profile picture is a clear image of a person’s face, as they would look in a business situation. A sun lounger shot is a bad idea (unless one is in the sun-bed trade!) as is one of someone standing outside a tavern in a Hawaiian shirt. A clear, sensible head and shoulders photo is much more effective. It doesn’t have to be boring or neutral like a passport picture, but it must be akin to the professional as they would walk through a boardroom door or report for an interview. It’s a mistake to use a very dated or flattering image because people will be disappointed by the real-life version and, moreover, it might create doubt over an individual’s integrity.

What does your profile picture say about you

What does your profile picture say about you

If they’ve been prepared to mislead on their photo, where else has the truth been given scope?

When writing a LinkedIn summary, stay away from jargon. Nobody really wants to meet a motivated, creative, enthusiastic, passionate, successful, driven, experienced man or woman. Assume visitors to a page or potential connections know that about a person already. Think about how you would speak to someone you met at a conference and write in the same tone. If you’re funny, crack a joke. Refer to yourself in the first person and be interesting. If you shake someone’s hand during lunch at a seminar, you’re unlikely to say, “This is Ivor Bighead and he is a motivated, talented, strategic, all-round good guy with a proven track record,” are you? “Hello, I’m Ivor, I’m hear to learn about ABC and I’m also looking forward to tonight’s networking party,” would work a great deal better. It’s the same on LinkedIn.

Like it

As with most social platforms, the fulcrum for most activity on LinkedIn is the ‘Like’ button. The easiest way to acknowledge a person’s post is to click it so they get a notification. The platform’s algorithms also detect the engagement and filter content accordingly. A dozen likes doesn’t mean 12 people have read something, however. The research that was alluded to in our session stated that users typically get one like for every approx. 140 post views. If a post gets 11 or more likes in the first hour, it will be categorised as ‘popular’ by the algorithms and be made visible to a lot more people, dramatically increasing the chances of it going viral. It’s another reason why it’s important to be relevant, interesting, and non-commercial. Can you see a post like, “Buy my amazing shackles,” going viral as people rush to interact and snap up the stock? No, thought not.

Post content your target audience will like

Post content your target audience will like

LinkedIn is just one social media platform. SP is active on many others, including Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and YouTube. There isn’t time to detail our strategies for each in this blog but it’s important to note that tailored content for each vehicle is crucial. There are apps that allow users to post to multiple platforms at the same time but I don’t believe engagement levels are as high as when a Twitter post is targeted for a “look at that news” hungry audience or an Instagram post is photogenic and more laden with hashtags.

Search #loadcell for SP content.

Good social media posts include a call to action, as do most blogs. So call me! I’d be happy to discuss further the matters raised in this article and welcome all feedback.

Mr. Loadlink
dayling@straightpoint.com

It’s Not What You Know, It’s Who You Know…

There’s a time and a place for hertz and gigahertz, says Mr. Loadlink.

I read an article recently about public speaking in which the author wrote about the importance of being passionate about their subject matter. They argued that only if a presenter is bordering on rhapsodic would they be able to engage their audience. The piece went on to explore how a speaker who isn’t wholehearted about their content will always be nervous, reliant on notes and unable to command respect.

Whilst I agreed with many of the points raised, I was always reading ahead to find a reference to the importance of assessing the audience and tailoring content accordingly. In this instance, that key notion was missing.

Language is the simplest way of tailoring information for an audience.

Language is the simplest way of tailoring information for an audience.

I say it doesn’t actually matter how passionate a speaker is or how eloquently they make their case, if the information isn’t relevant to those on the receiving end it’ll fall on deaf ears.

This blog isn’t about presentations per se but more generally covers the process of one entity passing information to another. Given my audience (readers of this blog) are largely from the industrial market, I’m going to focus on effectively communicating the business of a product supplier to a potential customer or supply chain partner. I’ll also suggest it’s important to remain flexible as it isn’t always clear exactly who the recipients of the pitch will be.

Take your company’s most popular product and consider how it can be packaged or communicated differently to various audiences. In Straightpoint’s case, it is the Radiolink plus load cell. To some people, it’s important that units are supplied with an update rate of 3Hz and can be easily configured to run at speeds of up to 200Hz. The same folks might be interested to know that data is transmitted wirelessly utilising the latest in IEEE 802.15.4 (2.4 GHz) technology.

However, to others, it’s only important that a Radiolink plus measures a load, relays the data to a reader and facilitates completion of a load test accordingly. There are those, meanwhile, to whom the application of the product means even less; they’re concerned only with the monetisation of force measurement technologies.

You see why a standard presentation or pitch would nearly always misfire as so much of it would be redundant every time. And this is our best product!

Use other equipment to apply the point to your own industry sector. Think of the supply chain for, say, a mobile crane. A manufacturer, rental company, contractor, operator and rigger are all going to interact with the machine, yet all care about different characteristics. Further, to effectively communicate the crane’s potential to some, it will need to be put into the context of marketplace, market share, utilisation, and industry trends. Actually, how the crane fits a business plan might be more important than how it lifts a load.

On point

It means one better get to know the audience before they pack the suitcase and slip the USB stick into their top pocket. If it’s a meeting at a factory or company offices, find out who will be involved and what their role is at the company.

If the CEO and CFO at a potential new distributor of Straightpoint equipment have agreed to meet a representative, they’re going to want to know how much units cost; what margins they can expect on their use; who is currently supplying them (or not) in the market; what the potential is based on research; etc. These guys are unlikely to be engineers and won’t want to, frankly, be bored by technical detail.

Conversely, if a company welcomes a sales pitch and says the head of engineering and the maintenance boss will be hosting the visit, a different approach will be required. It might be worth following references to 200Hz and IEEE 802.15.4 (2.4 GHz) technology with a few nuggets about LED wireless scoreboards and base stations with analogue (4-20mA, 0-10v, 0-5v) or digital (RS232/485, Modbus RTU, and ASCII serial communications protocol) outputs. If they continue to salivate, tell them about IP67 waterproof rating, 1,200 hours battery life, 700m / 2,300 ft. range, and no external antennae.

Give that part of the presentation to the CFO and he’ll switch off, open his laptop and start working on his latest P&L spreadsheet. Trouble is, the presenter won’t be in it!

As I said at the outset, anyone making visits and presenting a company should be flexible and able to react to questions and surprises. We’ve all been welcomed in reception areas by someone who says, ‘Sorry, Sanjay couldn’t make it today, but Bill, our COO, is going to step in.’ Use the time walking to the meeting room to consider what Bill might want to know that Sanjay wouldn’t and vice versa. Also give Bill some takeaways for Sanjay, as he’s likely to report back. Without confusing the operations guy, maybe say, ‘I know Sanjay was interested in A, B and C so please tell him about how these features will benefit his work…’

A meeting with another party is a valuable opportunity and not one to take lightly. If someone has taken time to put an appointment with a supplier in their diary, they’ve acknowledged that what they have to offer is of potential interest—so use every second.

Of course, it isn’t always possible to cover everything, particularly if only a short timeframe has been given and / or there has been a late change in personnel or schedule. In these cases, it’s good practice to invite follow-up questions and supply additional information once you’re back in the office.

Be authentic throughout, though. Follow-ups shouldn’t be used to move the goalposts. It’ll break a relationship in its embryonic form if an email is sent starting, ‘I know I mentioned IP67 waterproof rating and 1,200 hours battery life, but that’s only on the top of the range models that are double the price.’

Or, ‘It’s true that we want to add you to our distributor network but another company has exclusivity on these markets so you’ll have to sell only into a territory 150 miles away that has no telephones’.

Practice with your content; imagine someone who you’d like, or are likely, to meet, think about what they do and how it relates to the solution you offer. Then, based on everything you know, take the bits that mean the most to that person. If you get the chance and really want to impress them, tailor an introductory slide or message that is exclusive to them. Consider how much more engaged they’d be than if confronted with a two-year-old date and a one-size-fits-all PowerPoint presentation where Page 2 shows a photo of a building boasting its square footage.

Campaign trail

We’re on the cusp of another general election in the UK, where you’d expect political party leaders to always consider their audience of the day. It doesn’t always work like that, however. Regardless, it set the scene for a number of recent business trips where the objective was to continue to spread the key messages of the SP manifesto and build knowledge on our product offering.

There was plenty of time to discuss these matters with John Molidor, director of sales for the western hemisphere, on the campaign trail when we went to Baltimore, Philadelphia, New York and Boston to visit stateside dealers. Before each meeting, we reminded ourselves of all the important details covered above—who are we meeting? What are their roles? What does their company do? What products might they be interested in? Etc. Where appropriate, we took the opportunity to discuss and plan joint strategy to increase sales and gain U.S. market share.

Policy detail was further tailored more recently ahead of a trip to Singapore (where I am writing this blog) and later Malaysia to conduct training workshops for sales and engineering teams at local distributors. It should be clear by now how I plan to greet a single sales representative versus a room full of engineers.

Vote SP!

Thank you for reading and use the hashtag #loadcell on social media.

Mr. Loadlink